The new Surface Book released today, and twenty days ago I pre-ordered one from Best Buy since the Microsoft store was sold out of the model I wanted.

Big mistake.

Turns out a few days later, more of the model I desired were available on the MS store.  However, having already placed an order for one through Best Buy and not wanting to order one from Microsoft and then cancel my Best Buy order, I decided to stick with Best Buy.

Yet another mistake.

This morning the order status that had been showing “Processing” for twenty days suddenly showed “Backordered.”  My heart sank.  Flashes of customer service hell flashed before my eyes, and at this point the Surface Book is backordered through close to the end of the year if not beyond.

My first foray into Best Buy customer service was through Twitter.  I’ve seen Twitter customer service work before, companies tend to be responsive when angry customers go to social media to air dirty laundry.  While I didn’t have high hopes of a satisfactory response, I posted this:

Being the pillar of patience that I am (I am not a pillar of patience), I shortly followed up the tweet with the following email sent through their customer service contact form:  

Customer “Contact Us” Form Submission

First Name: Jason

Last Name:  Phone: nope

E-Mail: yeah, right

My Best Buy Member ID: classified

Are you Contacting us about an order? yes

Order Number: an order number here

What can we help you with? Best Buy Contact Form: Other

Subject Best Buy Contact Form: I have a question about my order status suddenly changing.

Detailed Summary I would like to know why my order is suddenly on back order the day I’m supposed to receive it. I’ve checked the status everyday for a week and it has shown normal until this morning. Will I be receiving my surface book today or not?

Amazingly, I received a reply email a little while later.  Sadly, it was a canned response from a customer service drone:  

Hi Jason,

Thank you for contacting Best Buy. We understand making sure each item gets to the customer on time is very crucial to our business and I am deeply sorry that your package hasn’t arrived as what you have anticipated to receive. I apologize for the delay and inconvenience. It looks like the item is not readily available in our warehouse. As of this moment, our warehouse team is working to secure your laptop for ship out and rest assured that you’ll be notified once available.

Thank you for your loyalty as a My Best Buy member. For any other concerns, you may visit our Help Center at



Best Buy Customer Care Reference #redacted

Yeah, the item being backordered kinda clued me in to the fact that my item wasn’t readily available.  Looks like the canned response that I was afraid I was going to get, but I wasn’t deterred.  I was going to bug their customer service until I got some answers.  I replied with this:  


Thank you for your prompt response, however this does not answer my question. Why was my order showing normal up until the day I was set to receive it, and why was I also not notified that the order was switched to backorder? I pre-ordered with the expectation of getting the item when it released. Is there an ETA on when I will receive this item?

Thank you,


A little after I sent the above email, I got a reply to my earlier tweet.  It was less than helpful:

Wanting to keep an open communication channel I dutifully replied:

Sometime later I received another reply email:

Hi Jason,

Thank you for contacting Best Buy. I’m sorry to hear the surface book you’ve pre-ordered was switched to backordered. I understand that can be quite disappointing. Let me take note of your concern.

One of the biggest obstacles for retailers to overcome is to have the correct amount of inventory available within stores to support its customers.  Best Buy is no different in that regard.  However, it is impossible to predict consumer demand on everything available at Best Buy.  Although we will strive to make the products we carry always available to our customers, there are times when our stores will run out of products.  Rest assured, once your order is ship out we will notify you.

We appreciate your business. For any other concerns, you may visit our Help Center at


Wilma Best Buy Customer Care Reference #:redacted

Oh, well that explains everything.  It’s not Best Buy’s fault, they simply had no idea how many pre-order units they had (or would have) and had no way of telling those who pre-ordered whether or not they would be stuck without their item on release day. Basically, Best Buy can’t be bothered to do what every other online retailer does: keep track of inventory in real time.  Of course, I had to reply:

Ah, I see what’s going on. When I reply back to this email thread, it gets bounced to a random customer support agent who then pastes a canned response and moves on to the next message.

I find the choice of boilerplate response below curious and I wonder if the email I sent was actually read in its entirety. This was a pre-order item so the correct amount of inventory based on consumer demand should have been easily discernable based on how many orders you received. One of the points of pre-order items. Another feature of online ordering is getting real time information on a product’s inventory status. If Best Buy had a limited number if Surface Books available for pre-order, that should have been reflected in the system so when the proper number were actually pre-ordered, the page for the product should show unavailable or back-ordered at that point.

I still have not had my previous questions answered, but I certainly look forward to the next canned response from the next customer service agent to receive this email.



Yeah, I was a little snarky in that last email, but I was pretty sure they were all going to be shuffled through the system with scripted responses that barely applied to the issue.  At that point I just wanted to see what the next response was going to be. I did receive another tweet later in the day.  It was basically more of the same:

I replied to see if I could glean any useful information and to see if there were any chance Best Buy actually gave a damn about the issue:

I’ve yet to receive a reply to my last tweet, so the apparent answer is no.

I did receive another email much later, however.  It was not great news:

Hi Jason,

Thank you for choosing Best Buy.

I understand that you want to know the status of the order. Let me assist you with that.

I was able to check on your account, and the order number order number here (Microsoft Surface Book 2in1 135 TouchScreen Laptop Intel Core i7 16GB Memory 512GB Solid State Drive Silver) is the indeed was a pre-ordered item. Many customers are pre-ordering the Laptop as well that’s why your order was on the backordered list. It is impossible to predict consumer demand on everything available at Best Buy and I apologize for the inconvenience it has caused you.

Please take note that the ETA of your Laptop is on 11/17/2015. Your item is prioritized and it is already order acknowledge on our end.

We appreciate your loyalty being a My Best Buy member.  For any other concerns, you may visit our Help Center at

Best Buy Customer Care
Reference # redacted

So my pre-ordered was place on backorder this morning, it appears, because Best Buy can’t track inventory, and they took all those pre-orders without knowing how many were being taken, then started fulfilling orders this morning and, whoops, ran out of inventory.  So I guess all the rest of the pre-orders weren’t really pre-orders, they were just orders for something that might be shipped out sometime in the future, but only if you contact them and try and figure out why your pre-order wasn’t really a pre-order.  But hey, at least I got an ETA on that final email.

Three weeks.

But another interesting thing happened.  About mid-day the item was switched again (and yet again I got no email or any other indication that the status was changed) from backordered to preparing.  My card was also charged, which isn’t supposed to happen until the item actually ships.

To explain, Best Buy orders have four statuses, Processing, Preparing, Shipped and Completed.  So now, according to Best Buy, they have my item in hand and are prepping it for shipping.  And I assume that since my card has now been charged, which also means that I can’t cancel the order if I happen to find what I want readily available someplace else, that it should be shipped shortly.  With a three week ETA, my guess is they have hired someone to personally walk my Surface Book to my shipping address.

Good luck to them.

After all of this, I really think I’m done with Best Buy forever.  Recently the only reason I’ve gone in there was when I absolutely had to have some sort of electronic device immediately or was passing time browsing with no intention of buying anything.  For must have immediately electronics, though I don’t find myself in that situation much, there are other alternatives that are a slightly longer drive.  Everything else will either be Amazon or another online retailer that can track their inventory in real time.